Has anyone considered the cost of replacing the batteries in an electric car?

As I understand it, Lithium Ion batteries do not work forever, and in about 5 years will not store a charge for very long. Just look at how your cell phone is for a good example of this.

So, how much money is it going to cost to replace the batteries on an electric vehicle when they go bad?


Current hybrid cars don’t use Lithium-ion batteries, they use nickel metal hydride. They’re still working on adapting lithium batteries for cars.

AFAIK, all hybrids have 100,000 mile warrantees on the batteries. I would assume that pure electrics will be similar.

Electric cars are touted as being “environmentally friendly,” but I’ve often wondered if the impact of batteries was included in the equation. Manufacturing millions of batteries will require a lot of energy (which means more fossil fuels must be burned), and the disposal of batteries is no picnic from an environmental perspective.

While we’re on the topic, I’d like to bring up another issue: cold climates. How does a heater work in an electric car? An electric heating element, perchance? :dubious: If so, how much power will be required to heat the interior of the vehicle? How will this impact the vehicle’s range before a recharging is required?

Electric cars are usually touted as being environmentally friendly only because they don’t have an exhaust pipe. As you say, once you factor in manufacturing and disposal, they become a lot less environmentally friendly. Add in the environmental impact of generating the electricity to run the car and it gets even worse. Lets face it. If you need a lot of power, you’re really only going to get it in one of two sources, either coal or nukes. Coal is right up there at the top of the hit list for the environmental folks. Nukes are often touted as being environmentally friendly, and Cecil himself is a proponent of nukes, but the nuke folks generally tend to ignore or downplay the nuclear waste issue and the environmental impact of accidents.

The one good thing about electric cars is that they concentrate the environmental effects to where the power plants are. Hopefully the environmental effects of disposing of the batteries won’t be too bad. Current car batteries are recycled. I would hope that by the time electric cars become commonplace, recycling of their types of batteries will be common as well.

You bring up a good point about the heater. A lot of energy goes into getting the interior of the car up to a comfortable temperature. Once it’s reached a comfortable temperature inside the car, it takes a lot less energy to maintain that temperature. Perhaps electric cars will heat their interiors while they are charging. I also can’t imagine an electric car using anything but an electric heater.

In really cold climates, I imagine the batteries would have to have a heater to prevent them from freezing.

I just want to chime in that, as someone who occasionally misreads the word car as cat in SDMB thread titles, this particular header gave me a good deal of pleasure. Thanks. :smiley:

I believe most car batteries today are expected to last at least 10 years. That’s just about the design lifetime of the vehicle (the average age of the auto fleet is just over 10 years).

Lithium-Ion batteries are environmentally friendly. You can chuck your Li-ion batteries in the garbage. Other battery chemistries have varying degrees of environmental unfriendliness, but most should be fully recyclable. So I don’t think it’s really an issue.

The energy cost of making the batteries is real, but then you’re not making a gas engine. Does a battery take more energy to make than a gas engine? I don’t know.

I don’t have a cite, but I remember reading that toyota and other car manufacturers are planning an electric vehicle for release in 2008. Said vehicle(s) will employ lithium ion batteries. I am not holding my breath for it, but it would be nice. Now, if that comes to pass, and they warranty the batteries up to 100,000 miles, then I will be looking at replacing the batteries twice in the life span of the car. My Honda Accord is expected to run for 300,000 miles. So, what kind of expense will this entail?



Batteries for hybrids cost about $8,000 (maybe a bit more or less, depending on who you ask). A true electric car is going to need a lot more batteries. Are you going to be willing to pour $20,000 into a car with 150,000 miles on it?

For that price, I might purchase a new vehicle at 150,000 miles. That is not unreasonable, by old chrysler concorde had about that on it when I traded it in. Still, that is not the reliability of my honda.

But that does answer my question. Thanks guys.

This is the big problem (well, one of several) with electric cars. Almost no one will be willing or able to foot that large of a bill. A five-year-old electric car with 100,000 miles on it will have no resale value. Who in their right mind is going to spend $2000 for a used car, knowing that within a year they might have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to keep it running?

That $8000 battery that your hybrid requires will probably be beyond the means of most car owners, too. It’ll be like when a car has transmission trouble: yeah you could get it fixed, but for most vehicles that’ll be the signal that it’s time to drive the car down to the local junkyard and say goodbye.

Nope. No major manufacturer is planning on releasing an all-electric car any time soon. Tesla motors is building an all-electric sports car, but it’s going to be over $100,000, and won’t be available until at least 2010. It’s very much a niche automobile.

The next incremental improvement over the current crop of hybrids will be the plug-in hybrid. These are basically hybrid cars not much different than the ones today, except that they have somewhat more powerful batteries and will be able to be plugged in to a standard electrical socket. They’ll still have a gas engine and can work in a standard hybrid configuration when the battery is discharged enough.

Frankly, I’m not sure we need all-electric. The plug-in hybrid strikes me as a very smart engineering compromise. To go all electric, you need to be able to carry a battery capable of at least a hundred miles’ range. That’s a huge, expensive, and heavy battery. But the 80% case for a typical car is to travel less than 20 miles. So for 80% of your trips, you’re dragging around weight that you don’t need. So why not carry a battery optimized for the 80% case, and let a gas engine charge the battery when the range needs to be extended? Make the engine flex-fueled so it can burn whatever is in good supply at the time - ethanol gasoline, whatever.

This type of vehicle is also much more reliable. The added redundancy of a small gas motor means it can operate off the grid if it needs to - imagine if we were all-electric, and there was a blackout? The next day, 90% of a city’s commuters would be stranded because they couldn’t charge their cars. Not a problem for the plug-in hybrid. Nor is the occasional very long trip. And all-electric has a bootstrapping problem - until all gas stations can charge electrics rapidly or swap batteries, it’s going to be hard to travel any real distance in one. The plug-in hybrid can use the existing infrastructure when it has to. It’s just a smarter way to go all around.

That’s a solution we could live with for many decades. Estimates are that the typical plug-in hybrid might only burn 1 gallon of gasoline on average for every 500 miles it travels. At those consumption levels, cost isn’t a big issue (if I’m getting 500 miles to the gallon, I’l gladly pay 10 dollars per gallon), and the consumption rate will be low enough that ethanol actually makes some sense.

We are just on the cusp of this technology. The big issue now is simply the cost and safety of the batteries. Lithium-ion has a high enough energy density to be totally suitable for this purpose. The Tesla roadster will use Li-ion batteries. As will the Chevrolet Volt, which at this point is scheduled to be the first plug-in hybrid available on the market - in 2010 (or so GM says - I’d bet more like 2011 or 2012). Nonetheless, GM says that they’ll sell 60,000 to 100,000 of them in the first year - four times the sales of the Prius. And they just might - this is the first hybrid car I’m seriously considering.

Why not?

A small propane burner would seem quite workable as a car heater. It’d certainly be producing heat right away, while it can often take several minutes before the heater in my car starts putting out heat. And a small propane tank lasts most of the summer when used in a outdoor grill; I’d imagine 1-2 tanks would last most of the winter.

This isn’t new; I seem to remember friends with early Volkswagens that had a separate heater that they had to light to heat the vehicle.

I’m not disputing the desire for a gasoline motor in an electric vehicle, but only want to mention that backup generators are cheap as hell these days. Portable ones run on gasoline, and whole house generators can hook directly to your natural gas lines. Although I’d still want my own portable plant built into the car, presumably if one depended on the grid only, or you wanted to save the engine weight, you’d be able to have a backup source of energy at home.

All current hybrids are parallel hybrids, right? The Prius I know is. To make a plug-in hybrid, I have to imagine that there’s some redesign going on to make the system a series hybrid (or at least act like one) whereby the engine isn’t using any power to drive the vehicle. Ideally (I imagine) a supurb plug-in hybrid would be a pure electric vehicle with the engine as a source of current only. This would permit better, more efficient engines to be used, such as a turbine, or even a diesel or gas engine running at most optimal RPM.

Several reason why not!
Additional cost for heater, tank, plumbing, controls.
Extra weight; for all above plus shielding in event of a crash.
No advantage, electric heater (resistance) will provide heat almost immediately and as mentioned above - could sense environment and turn on automatically while charging overnight or be programmed to do so.
No restrictions on bridges/tunnels, no hazardous materials or extra refill trips to make.
No open flames.

Battery prices don’t seem to be fixed very well, not many have been done. One example cites a corrosion problem with a connector on the cells as indicating a premature death. I would expect a couple of more years to provide a more accurate experience. Volume production should also lower costs.

Recycling will also pick up in the future. An excellent opportunity for entrepaneurs.

Yes, but that does nothing to extend the range of the vehicle. It does help mitigate the grid dependency, as you say.

Some people have converted Priuses to plug-in mode. The Prius can run on electric power only - it’s a parallel hybrid in the sense that the gas engine or the electric can power the drive wheels, but the engine can be shut off entirely.

The Chevy Volt is a true series hybrid. All the gas engine can do is charge the battery, and all motive force comes from the electric motor.

Now I’m curious as to the difference in behavior between a stock Prius and a hacked one. While it’s obvious that something can be done, the question remains whether it should be done. Let’s take a normal Prius, for example. Under what conditions does the gasoline motor kick in? I’m guessing any combination of the following:
[li]Low battery[/li][li]Speeds over about 25 mph[/li][li]Climate control active (i.e., not just venting exterior air).[/li][/ul]
So by not allowing the gasoline engine to assist above 25 mph, you’re introducing a serious drain on the batteries. Double the speed, quadruple the power requirement. So at 50 mph, you’re still pissing off local traffic by going so slow, but also killing your batteries. I can easily see why plug-ins have to engineered that way from the start. These converting geeks must not ever get on a freeway.

Of course my assumption is that they don’t use engine assist. Or, maybe they are, and the only thing they’re changing is the charging algorithm so that the batteries will be low when they get home instead of charged, meaning they can now plug in their car instead of letting the engine charge the battery. If that’s the case, then it’s a bunch of hype over nothing of any substantial consequence. They need a true series plug-in.

Here is something I found that says,

Hopefully someone with more time than me will calculate how much energy will be drained from the car’s batteries after turning on its 32,000 BTU/hr electric heater.

I wish I still had the article, but I was reading a couple of weeks ago an article about a new all electric car out of (IIRC) Norway. The interesting thing was how they were going to solve the battery problem noted in the OP. Basically (from memory) what they were proposing was to sell you the car (with a really cool Dell like sales model, where you could order pretty much everything online, and customize your car right there before it was even built) but RENT you the battery. The car would be fully wired so would basically report back the status of the battery continuously. Once the batter degraded to a certain point the car would send you a message telling you to bring the battery back and the manufacturer would replace the battery (again, you are renting this battery using a montly rate roughly equivelent to buying gas IIRC). The batteries would then be resold to electric companies who would wire the batteries in series to store energy from things like wind farms and such.

It was a pretty cool concept. I just wish I still had the link to the article.


2 posters have mentioned that the batteries last 100,000 miles. Most people do 20,000 miles a year. And as someone mentioned that batteries cost $8000.
$8000 seems alot of money to fork out every 5 years on your car on top of the other expenses.